1972 NCAA Tournament Final — UCLA and Florida State


By Ron Griffitts

Contributing Columnist

On March 25, 1972, at the L.A. Sports Arena in Los Angeles, the NCAA tournament men’s basketball final was held between the UCLA Bruins (29-0) coached by John Wooden and appearing in their sixth consecutive NCAA final and the Florida State Seminoles (28-4) coached by Hugh Durham who were in their first NCAA final.

The Bruins had dispatched the Denny Crum coached Louisville team in the final four semifinal 96-77 and were led by 6’ 11” sophomore Bill Walton (21.1 points per game, 15.5 rebounds per game), Henry Bibby (15.7 ppg), Jamaal Wilkes (13.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and Larry Farmer (10.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

The Seminoles had defeated Kentucky 73-54 in the Mideast regional final in what proved to be Adolf Rupp’s last game as Kentucky coach, and North Carolina 79-75 in the final four semifinal. They were led by Ron King (17.9 ppg, 6 rpg), Reggie Royals (15.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg), Rowland Garrett (13 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and Lawrence McCray (12 ppg, 8.2 rpg).

The Seminoles got out to an early lead 21-14 but UCLA behind Walton’s rebounding and the Bruins’ fast break offense went on a 36-18 run and led 50-39 at halftime. Florida State battled back outscoring UCLA 37-31 in the second half to lose by five points 81-76. With four minutes left in the game Florida State had pulled to within seven points at 79-72 but UCLA went into a ball control offense and held on to their lead for the win.

For UCLA it was Wooden’s eighth title in as many tries and extended their winning streak to 45 games.

They were led by Walton with 24 points and 20 rebounds, Jamal Wilkes 23 points and 10 rebounds and Henry Bibby who contributed 18 points. All three players would go on to play in the NBA.

Florida State was led by Ron King who led all scorers with 27 points on 12 of 20 from the field and three free throws, Reggie Royals 15 points and Ron Harris who had 16 points and 6 assists off the bench.

Walton won the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament award as he scored 33 points and pulled down 21 rebounds against Louisville in the semifinal.

He was joined on the all final four team by Jamaal Wilkes, Bob McAdoo of North Carolina, Jim Price of Louisville and Ron King of Florida State.

Wooden was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for his coaching achievements after the season was over even though he was still an active coach.

It was his second induction as he had been inducted as a player in 1960.

Three of the four final four coaches, Wooden, Denny Crum of Louisville, and Dean Smith of North Carolina would all be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Walton would go on to a stellar Hall of Fame NBA career where he helped the Portland Trailblazers and the Boston Celtics to NBA titles.

Jamaal Wilkes also went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers where he helped to four NBA titles as a scorer and defensive specialist.

North Carolina’s Bob McAdoo and Bobby Jones also went on to Hall of Fame careers in the NBA. McAdoo played 17 seasons in the NBA and won three scoring titles. Jones was on the NBA all-defensive team 11 times and won an NBA title with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983.

Adolph Rupp retired after the 1972 season after spending 42 years at Kentucky where he compiled an 876-190 record with four NCAA titles and he too would be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Statistics for this article were from sports-reference.com and YouTube.

Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.

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